Tag: adventure

Travel Swellness: I flew a jet in Las Vegas

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In March I visited Las Vegas for the sixth time, and while I’ve been on plenty of whirlwind trips there (one focused on spa and daytime pool parties, another on food — when I thought my stomach would break — and two on fitness fun times) this one takes the cake on being the most thrilling.

How’s that? Well, for one, I flew a jet. No, really. I did the Top Gun experience at Sky Combat Ace and after you watch a video explaining the moves, you head up in the aerobatic jet and after the pilot performs the stunt, you’re given control of the plane (much like when you learn to drive, he can take over if anything starts to go wrong).

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I feel like I don’t get too nervous for most adventures I’m lucky enough to experience, but I will admit that I was pretty shaky in the knees for this one. But that quickly went away once we were up in the air. I didn’t find it too nervewracking to do the stunts because there’s really nothing around the plane that you can crash into.

What did catch me off guard? How dizzy I got! After the pilot did the first two stunts, I had to ask to have a breather before I performed it, just to let that dizzy feeling ease up. I can get carsick sometimes (usually if it’s particularly stop and go traffic) but I’m fine of rollercoasters so I didn’t expect this flying experience to affect me. But I guess it was the spinning action (I’m good on coasters that go up and down, but not the spinning of a tilt-a-whirl, for example).

I knew I had no interest in doing the stunt where you get to so many Gs that many people black out briefly (I’m prone to fainting thanks to my blood pressure sometimes dropping rapidly — it’s called vasovagal syncope — and I do not enjoy the feeling!), but I was keen to do all of the stunts, even the three more advanced ones…

So once we completed all the regular stunts, the pilot did the first advanced stunt — and mid-stunt, as the jet spun around and dropped in the air, I thought “Omigod, I’m going to lose that half granola bar I had for breakfast!” I immediately started to try to take deep breaths to get control on my insides and not throw up, and as I dry  heaved I reached for the convenient trash bag in front of me.

The pilot kept talking to me but because I was so focused on not throwing up, I couldn’t reply. “I think you moved your headset, I can’t hear you anymore,” he said. No, no, just me trying not to speak so I can keep my breakfast inside my belly…

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When I was finally able to speak, I told him I needed a break, so we flew low to the ground for awhile and then I heard him telling mission control that we’d be flying back soon. I almost interrupted and said I wanted to do the rest of the advanced stunts (cuz I’m stubborn like that) but then I realized how awful I’d feel if I actually did lose my breakfast. So back we went to land, and then I lay down in the lounge for almost an hour as I sipped water and had a snack and just waited til the dizziness went away.

Here’s the video from my Sky Combat experience. TBH, I’ve only watched the beginning…where you can hear my nervous laugh as we go up, and then my true laugh as I’m upside down. I had to stop watching the video because it actually makes me feel all lightheaded and woozy all over again! Soo…there may be a nice little scene where I’m trying not to vomit, I’ll have to watch the whole thing one day. Enjoy!

But you know what? As nauseous as it got me, I’d do it all over again. That’s right, my days as Maverick are not done if I have the choice to fly again! Such a thrilling experience and YOLO! Haha! I’m definitely glad I didn’t have more of a breakfast beforehand, and I say go for it if you’re in Vegas (and have a healthy adventure budget to burn! Jet flying doesn’t come cheap!).

For what else you can do in Vegas for the ultimate thrill ride of a vacay, check out my article on AmongMen!

1 Comment April 27, 2017

Travel Swellness: Escape and discover with Ford Canada

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In the summer, I was invited last-minute on a fun “Escape and Discover” getaway with Ford Canada…in their Ford Escape (duh). Except a little road trip from Toronto wasn’t the big surprise. The dozen of us were told to pack only the small duffle bag we’d been given and although I think we all thought we were just driving up to cottage country, instead we were divided into four teams and all took off on flights that morning to different destinations in Ontario.

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My team ended up flying to Ottawa, where I haven’t been since I ran my first half-marathon there in 2008. We got into our shiny new Escape at the airport and went straight to lunch at the very tasty gastropub Murray Street. I’ve been to Ottawa a few times but have never had a chance to check out its food scene much, and would definitely make a point of going back here.

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From here, we wandered a bit then got back into our Escape to get around the city quickly, fitting as much as possible into our afternoon. First, a stop outside and then inside the National Gallery of Canada, and here by the Supreme Court of Canada. Then we popped over to Hog’s Back Falls, and I think this was my favourite stop. I have this thing with waterfalls, OK?

at Hog's Back Falls

Then because we had an itinerary to stick to, we started to head to our evening destination, Kingston, but not before I insisted we stop that car to check out these adorable sheep! (Sigh. I had many more pics of these cuties, and of the rest of the trip but I lost all the photos from my smartphone recently, so this is all I’ve got left!)

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With WIFI in the Escape, I got to catch up on emails and social media while one of my teammates drove us to Kingston. It was a smooth drive; having driven the Escape myself before, it handles well and this jaunt, I got a chance to take it easy as a passenger in the backseat and hello, loads of leg room.

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Once in Kingston, we checked into the very lovely Rosemount Inn & Spa. Would you believe this is the first time I’d been to Kingston? I’ve driven by it a million times on my way back and forth to Montreal, but thanks to this Escape, I finally got the chance to check it out. We feasted on the lovely patio at Chez Piggy, and then, even though none of us were super early birds, we did want a chance to take the car out again in Kingston, so we met up at sunrise and checked out City Hall, parked by the waterfront and soaked up as much of this quaint city before having breakfast.

Then it was time to hand back the keys of our Escape and we were off to the airport to be flown home to Toronto. I spend a lot of my time traveling, and I’ve driven more this year than ever, and having an Escape to discover gems I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to check out, well, that’s what I love most about adventures like this Escape and Discover weekend. Thanks, Ford Escape, for the opportunity to learn a little more about what cities in Canada have to offer (it was cool to see what the other three teams got to check out in cities like Sarnia and North Bay!), ones I haven’t taken the time to explore. And there were so many other spots in both Ottawa and Kingston I didn’t get a chance to check out in our whirlwind trip, so next time I’ve got keys to an Escape, I’ll be checking out that sandwich spot in Kingston, and will  visit those sheep again, obviously.

 

Leave a Comment October 10, 2016

Travel Swellness: Finding new roads in Nashville with Chevy Cruze

I believe in Nashville

Last week, Chevrolet Canada invited me to travel to Nashville to find new roads behind the wheel of a Chevy Cruze. It was a quick trip but with a full itinerary, we managed to fit a fair amount of exploring Nashville and its outskirts. It was my first time in Tennessee, and I was struck by how lush and green it was as the plane was making its descent.

so green Nashville

Another lovely surprise? Everyone is so warm and friendly. Although my hometown of Toronto has some good points, friendly people is not one of them. Nor is good customer service (CS is the pits here). So I was completely caught off guard in Nashville by (gasp) people actually greeting me and even chatting.

Marathon Village

On my first day in Nashville, I took out the Chevy Cruze LT by myself and went to explore Marathon Village. Here, the Marathon Factory building dates back to 1881 and it now is filled with studios and loads of shops selling fun items, such as Antique Archeology, where there was a very creepy mummified boy and other oddities.

The Bang Candy Company

I initially made my way to Marathon Village because Chevy told me The Bang Candy Company had a stash of candy for the crew in town for the Chevy Cruze adventure. There I picked up my homemade marshmallows, and was mighty temped by their simple syrups (which I passed on since I was traveling only with a carry-on).

Chevy Cruze

I don’t drive that regularly and am not fond of driving in a new city, and I’d say in general I’m always stressed about getting lost, but thanks to the Chevy Cruze being the most connected car in its class, I didn’t have to worry. The Cruze  has 4G LTE wifi available on all models, and Apple Carplay and Android Auto standard. And should I need to make a call, I knew I would be able to do so easily and safely thanks to hands-free calling and standard Siri Eyes Free voice recognition (as long as the iPhone is running iOS 6 or later, which would you believe mine is? I’m terrible about updating my operating system…). Oh, and the navigation features 3D  map views for major cities and attractions.

Nashville aka Music City is famous for being storytelling and we were treated to a lovely dinner at Little Octopus (where we ate family style courses including some of the best roast chicken with salsa verde I’ve had, along with some tasty farro cakes, a juicy burger, and more. All while listening to some superb live country music. The four artists who performed during dinner are the songwriters behind some of the top country songs by the who’s who in cuntry (think Kenny Chesney, for example). While I didn’t recognize any of the songs (not a country music fan — I don’t think Taylor Swift counts, right?), the music was mellow and quite moving. Full of good food and in a good mood, we returned to the Hutton Hotel and called it a night (OK, fine, we had one last drink at the hotel first).

Hutton Hotel Nashville

The next day, bright and early, we all partnered up and chose a Chevy Cruze and were given an itinerary for the day. My friend Jonathan of MrCavaliere.com and I piled into our Cruze and set out to find new roads.

Country View Amish Market

 

We met up with the Cruze squad first at a pit stop at Country View Amish Market in Charlotte, where the staff was just lovely, the fried pies irresistible and the bacon dressing (aka a jar of bacon fat) mighty tempting (gd the no-fluids more than 100 mL flight rule!). From there, Jonathan and I got lost (don’t ask — my bad, I misunderstood something in the itinerary), but he maneuvered our Cruze easily on the windy country roads (the 2016 Cruze is 2.7 inches longer, but up to 250 pounds lighter on the L, LS and LT, which makes the car more nimble and feels more controllable, plus this also optimizes the performance and efficiency of the powertrain — so I’m told; I confess: the feature I was most excited about in the Cruze is the wireless phone charging, if only I had the battery that does wireless charging!).

At the Country Boy Diner

Eventually, we made it to The Country Boy in Leiper’s Fork, which is pretty much everything you hope for in a Nashville countryside diner. I mean, check out the adorableness of our server.

chicken sandwich, catfish, fried green tomatoes

Here, I ate what is quite possibly the best fried chicken sandwich of my life. Jonathan and I had agreed to share the entire meal, including some fried green tomatoes, so we could try more menu items, but with my first bite of the sandwich, I wished we had just gone for two chicken sandwiches instead of the catfish plate. The bun is so soft and light (so it doesn’t overwhelm the incredible juicy chicken) and the chicken isn’t too heavily battered, so it’s very chicken-y (can’t you tell that I write for a living!?).

Copper Fox Gallery

 

We slurped up two milkshakes with our lunch and then poked around Leiper’s Fork, where there were a few galleries of great gifts and art. I particularly fell for The Copper Fox Gallery, where I learned that the restored home it’s housed in is from the 1860s and the beautiful yellow door (and some of the floor) is original. I left empty-handed because we were pressed for time, and I must make it back there to spend more time shopping and to check out the other places I didn’t get a chance to pop into, such as Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant.

at the Copper Fox Gallery

We did make a quick stop, though, to take a pic of General Lee (you know, the car from Dukes of Hazzard!)…

Dukes of Hazzard General Lee

this awesome cop car…

vintage cop car

and this vintage Chevy (how appropriate!)…

vintage Chevy in Leiper's Fork

I got behind the wheel here and we made our way to Otis James, whose studio can be found in the “Makers area” in downtown Nashville. Otis is an artisan cap maker (his focus was previously bowties and ties, but now it’s caps that he makes by hand), and the majority of his work is custom work for clients.

Otis James caps and ties

Because I think Jonathan and I got caught up in the magic of finding new roads in Nashville, we completely missed out on the fact we were supposed to get to Otis James’s studio at a certain time. Oops. So we weren’t there when Chevy’s lead designers were there chatting design philosophies (sorry, Chevy!). We did have a lovely visit with Otis, though. He’s passionate about people knowing where their products come from and knowing where or why design elements are made. Mass production can make us all forget that there are actual people behind the design. Take the Chevy Cruze, for example. For Otis, he really wanted to know why, for example, leather was used for a certain element of the car but another material elsewhere. Besides his bespoke work, we also talked a lot about Canada, food, and upon hearing we hadn’t had much time in Nashville to really poke around, he promised me there’s more to Nashville than fried chicken.

Otis James

Oh, and I fell in love with his shy dog, Maple, who I was determined to befriend. She seemed to want some attention but was just a little skittish.

sweet, skittish Maple

Chatting away and taking photos at the studio, Jonathan and I both lost track of time and realized we had to get back to grab our shuttle to the airport. Fortunately, we were close to the Chevy hub and it should’ve only taken 10 minutes. Unfortunately, we got stuck in traffic (wow, Nashville, you’ve got some traffic!), but eventually we made it back and our Chevy Cruze adventure came to an end. We reluctantly handed back our keys and said so long to Nashville. It was an awesome adventure finding new roads with the Chevy Cruze (Thank you Chevrolet Canada!) and I I hope to be back in Music City real soon!

Chevy Cruze finding new roads

 

Leave a Comment April 28, 2016

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